Mani Kaul: The Desert of a Thousand Lines

The Desert of a Thousand Lines, Mani Kaul,  69’,  India / FRG, ZDF 5.11.1981, OV with German subtitles

In India, as in the USA, an independent arthouse cinema developed alongside the studio system. In 1973, the director Mani Kaul shot the feature film Duvidha in the desert region of Rajasthan. He returned seven years later to make a documentary film. It was his intention to show the desert as an “environment” and not as an illustrative or exotic image. A cowherd who uses his herding call to round up 4000 wild cows that attack every stranger like dogs. A camel herder who recognises every one of his animals by their tracks. Kaul shows the desert as an ecosystem in order to “portrait its living face”, states the ZDF press text. “Over thousands of years, deep features have carved their way into this face and a language has developed among people and animals who depend on each other for survival.”

Mani Kaul (1944–2011) was a well-known Indian director and representative of independent Indian cinema. His documentary and feature films won many awards in India and internationally, including several National Film Awards. He was a regular guest at the Berlinale Forum with his films, amongst others, Duvidha (1975), Gashiram Kotwal (1978), Dhrupad (1984) and Mati Manas (1986). The essayistic documentary The Desert of a Thousand Lines (1981) was made for Das kleine Fernsehspiel.